Are you sitting too long? If you spend half your day being sedentary, watching TV or working at the computer, you could very well benefit from inviting some movement into that time frame, even if you've had your regular morning workout.
Studies have found that regular structured physical activity, while excellent for our health, does not cancel out the negative factors of prolonged sitting. We now have evidence that prolonged sitting without any intermittent movement comes with some very deleterious effects.
Dr. James A. Levine, author of Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, says, "The human body hasn't changed that much over the last several hundred years, but the way we live has. We've gone from an agricultural lifestyle, in which we spent only a few hours each day sitting, to one in which the average American worker sits for 12 to 15 hours a day."
After sitting for long periods of time, most people may only share the immediate aftereffects: lethargy and stiffness. However, research points to more long-term negative effects. As circulation slows, so does calorie burning, which can lead to weight gain. In addition, swollen ankles, varicose veins and other leg disorders often develop; muscles can weaken, prompting the "slouch and shuffle" effect; and hip flexors can become shortened and tight, decreasing range of motion when walking (one of the main reasons older people have a tendency to fall). Cholesterol levels and the cardiovascular system also can be negatively affected.
Breaking up your sitting time with intermittent bursts of activity will help offset the risks. Try these:
• Take a five-minute "walk-around" for every hour you sit. This revs up circulation in arms and legs.
• Be a fidgeter. Shift your position every 15 or 20 minutes.
• When reading, stand up and walk around after finishing so many chapters.
• Every so often, stand up and sit down several times.
• When watching TV, walk and stretch during commercials.
• To help with shoulder tension, roll your shoulders forward eight to 10 times, then backward eight to 10 times.
• Rotate your ankles and wrists often to help improve circulation. This also strengthens ankle-wrist flexibility.
Also consider incorporating these mini movements into your day:
• On the phone? Walk around the room or stand.
• Take a five-minute walk or trot every coffee break.
• Do a few wall pushups and leg lifts using the kitchen counter.
• Dance to your own beat. Play your favorite music and create your own dance movements. (This seems to be popular among some of my readers.)
• Walk 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day, using a fitness tracker for motivation. Begin at your desired level, then gradually increase.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.